The Natural Refugees of Virunga National Park

I’ve spent the last two weeks in and around Goma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), visiting fellow Then They Were None blogger Stephanie Perazzone. My next few posts will thus concentrate on my experiences in moving away from my own field site in Beirut to another site that, although visiting as a tourist, I experienced at least partially through the eyes of another researcher. This first post, however, is a simple narrative and photo account of a visit to view the silverback mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park in the DRC.

The first thing that (literally) hits you, when crossing the border from Rwanda to the North Kivu province of the DRC, is the roads. Goma is blessed with just a single short (one or two kilometer long) stretch of asphalt around its old colonial centre. Next best are the dirt- or rather volcanic ash- flattened roads that are, presumably, to be asphalted at some future date. Beyond this the streets are little more than dirt and stone tracks, which are irregularly but frequently interspersed by large potholes and misshapen rocks that make any journey decidedly arduous, even in an appropriate vehicle. To those who frequent Africa this might be unsurprising, although my only other point of African contrast- Kigali, Rwanda- at least had a good portion of its central arteries smoothly asphalted right up to the Congolese border. In any case, the actual mechanics of travel in Goma are not something to look forward to. Continue reading